Pekka Rinne

A Duck x 1000: Ryan Getzlaf reaches career games milestone

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — If Ryan Getzlaf had spent his career in a cold-weather hockey hotbed instead of sunny Southern California, the profile of the Anaheim Ducks’ longtime captain might loom much larger over his era in the game.

Getzlaf is perfectly happy to make his mark by the beach, and it gets bigger every year.

Getzlaf played in the 1,000th game of a career spent entirely in Anaheim on Sunday, becoming the first player in the history of this 26-year-old club to hit the mark.

The playmaking center celebrated his latest milestone in front of the family and fans who understand what he means to the city and its team. The Ducks’ game against the Chicago Blackhawks also was the 2,000th in franchise history, meaning Getzlaf had been their man in the middle for exactly half of all the games they’ve played since 1993.

”I’ve been here a long time, and it was a very warm welcome,” Getzlaf said afterward. ”I was a little emotional during the game. It was a little bit embarrassing. I’m not very good at those things, but it was great to see the family and have everybody here.”

The 34-year-old Getzlaf has spent his whole adult life in Orange County, growing from a rambunctious Canadian prairie kid into a married father who doesn’t party quite so much anymore. His four children surprised him with a tribute video before his landmark game, and the Ducks played it again when they held a pregame ceremony to honor the achievement before his 1,001st game Tuesday against Minnesota.

His parents also came into town from Saskatchewan to celebrate a milestone in a career that doesn’t appear to be slowing, even as it hits four digits.

”I think it has been a great privilege for everyone around here watching that young man grow up,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. ”He has been given much by the organization, and he has given everything that he has back.”

Getzlaf has been with the Ducks since they were still Mighty: He cracked the lineup in 2005 as a 20-year-old with a full head of luxurious hair alongside Corey Perry, his fellow member of the ’03 draft class and his perennial linemate.

Perry played in 988 games with Anaheim, but injuries and declining performance led to his departure for Dallas during the summer. Getzlaf is still in town and going strong.

Getzlaf has been a productive offensive player from his rookie season, emerging as one of hockey’s best passers while leading a series of elite playoff teams. He won the Stanley Cup in 2007, and the Ducks have been a consistent contender ever since, making the playoffs 11 times in his 14 seasons. He led Anaheim to two Western Conference finals during a string of five straight Pacific Division titles from 2013-17.

He even became the essential face of the franchise after the retirement of beloved forward Teemu Selanne in 2014. Getzlaf has handled it all with a growing maturity, but few concessions to age in his game.

Getzlaf is the 53rd player in NHL history to appear in his first 1,000 games with one team, and the eighth active player on that list.

Getzlaf scored his 934th career point with an assist against Chicago. Selanne is the Ducks’ career scoring leader with 988 points, but Getzlaf seems likely to add that record to his Anaheim trophy cabinet as well.

”Being able to play a game for a living is a pretty big honor and a responsibility,” Getzlaf said. ”I owe to it to myself and to my family to play as well as I can for as long as I can.”

CHARA’S MILESTONE

Getzlaf wasn’t the only NHL veteran rolling over zeros on his career odometer recently: Zdeno Chara, the Boston Bruins’ 42-year-old captain, played in his 1,500th career game in Montreal on Tuesday night.

Canadiens fans honored the moment with a significant ovation – which is about as good as it will ever get for one of their home team’s longest-running antagonists.

Chara is the 21st player and sixth defenseman – including former Bruins captain Ray Bourque – in NHL history to reach 1,500 games. The 6-foot-9 Slovak joins Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton as the only active players to hit the mark.

”It’s a lot of games, (but) obviously I’m feeling very humble about it,” he told reporters in Montreal. ”I’ve been very lucky, and I’m very grateful I’ve been able to be in the right place at the right time, and get to know some very special people along the way.”

Chara made his NHL debut with the Islanders in November 1997 – a month before the birth of his current blue line partner, Charlie McAvoy. Chara has been Boston’s captain since 2006, and he won the Norris Trophy in 2009 and the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Chara has no interest in retiring anytime soon, and he is still in Boston’s top defensive pairing. He is likely to hit 1,000 career games with the Bruins near the midway point of this season.

”I love this game,” he said. ”The game gave me so much. I just enjoy every day, being along with my teammates and go out there and perform. I just love competing, and I have extreme passion for the sport.”

PEKKA PERSEVERES

Nashville’s Pekka Rinne (8-0-2) became the first goalie in NHL history to post a season-opening point streak of 10 or more games at age 36 or older. Rinne turned 37 years old last Sunday, and he continues to put up superb numbers in his 12th full season in the league.

A good chunk of Rinne’s success should go toward defensemen Roman Josi (5-11-16) and Ryan Ellis (2-13-15), who have become the sixth pair of teammate defensemen since 1991-92 to produce a point-per-game pace through their first 15 contests. Josi, who just got a $72.8 million contract extension to stay in Nashville, has put up five goals and 11 assists, while Ellis has two goals and 13 assists.

Tkachuk tricks buzzer, treats Flames to comeback win

It really only makes sense that one of the NHL’s greatest trolls had the last laugh on Halloween night.

For a while, it looked like Thursday’s Calgary Flames – Nashville Predators game would be about Nashville winning a laugher at home, while Austin Watson celebrated his contract extension with a four-point night.

After all, the Predators carried a 4-1 lead into the third period, and the second period was especially embarrassing for the Flames, as Calle Jarnkrok scored twice — both times shorthanded. Nashville also generated a convincing 27-9 shots on goal advantage through the first 40 minutes.

Whether you chalk it up to Flames head coach Bill Peters berating his team in the locker room during the second intermission, the Predators possibly sitting on their lead, or any number of other factors, things got wild — perhaps spooky and ookie – during the third period, and didn’t stop until the dying seconds of overtime.

The Flames rattled off three consecutive goals to quiet the crowd in Nashville and tie things up 4-4, but that didn’t represent the end of the twists. Instead, Watson scored a pretty one-timer goal to make it 5-4 for Nashville two minutes after Alan Quine tied things up for the Flames … and that didn’t represent the end of the twists.

Calgary put relentless pressure on Pekka Rinne and the Predators with the Flames’ net empty late in the game, and those pushes to score paid off when Matthew Tkachuk scored the 5-5 goal to send the game to overtime. Then, with less than two seconds remaining in OT, Tkachuk found the net with a nifty between-the-legs shot, tricking the buzzer in the process.

(Check out that specific goal in the video above this post’s headline.)

The Flames had squandered third-period leads to lose their last two games, and had also lost three of their last four, only managing a shootout win during that span. With a back-to-back set looming on the weekend to close out their current four-game road trip, things could have been pretty tense if Calgary didn’t manage this remarkable comeback.

You could call him Tka-clutch on Thursday, if you’re into that sort of thing:

The Predators at least get a “charity point” for their struggles, and maybe a wakeup call that, if there was even a subtle push to sit on that 4-1 lead, they might want to keep their foot on the gas instead of trying to go into cruise control in similar situations down the line.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Rask, Rinne, Fleury are NHL’s hottest goalies so far

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With every team except the New Jersey Devils at 10 games played or more – New Jersey’s played nine – this seems like a good time to check in on the most important (yet also most unpredictable) position in hockey: goalies.

These netminders are off to the hottest starts so far in the young 2019-20 season.

Tuukka Rask

If forced to name a top goalie so far, I’d lean toward the Boston Bruins veteran.

Rask is 6-0-1 so far, with a league-leading .951 save percentage.

The 32-year-old sparkles in deeper categories, too. Rask ranks third in even-strength save percentage at .961. According to Hockey Reference’s Goals Saved Against Average (GSAA) – a metric that attempts to account for the difficulty of shots a goalie faces – Rask leads all goaltenders by a healthy margin with 8.69 GSAA.

Every single one of his starts has been considered a “quality start.”

Pekka Rinne

Big-time Finns are off to great starts.

Rinne is tied with Penguins backup Tristan Jarry for the league’s best even-strength save percentage at .964, and Rinne’s off to a great start in the standings, going 7-0-1. Rask and Rinne are in a four-way tie for first place in shutouts with two alongside Carter Hutton and Petr Mrazek.

Rinne’s 6.53 GSAA ranks third. There was a time when people chalked up some of Rinne’s success to the team in front of him, and a brief period (especially 2015-16) when Rinne struggled by any measure. That’s looking more like a blip in an increasingly brilliant career.

Darcy Kuemper

I must admit, I wondered if the Coyotes were being hasty in extending Kuemper, as great as he was basically since the calendar hit 2019. Instead, GM John Chayka’s proactiveness might pay off big time, as Kuemper’s carried over that great finish from 2018-19 to 2019-20 so far.

If Arizona can give Kuemper more consistent goal support (5-3-0), he might get the sort of wins that Vezina-voting GMs gravitate to. Otherwise, he checks out with a .933 save percentage and 5.62 GSAA.

Marc-Andre Fleury

At some point, it feels like the Golden Knights are going to overwork their workhorse. The 34-year-old remains sturdy and often spectacular right now, though.

His eight wins (8-3-0) lead the NHL at the moment, and his 334 saves top all as well (though John Gibson‘s generally being asked to do even more in Anaheim, which is sadly not much of a surprise). Fleury’s .928 save percentage might not be outright spectacular compared to the best on this list, but his second-ranked 7.14 GSAA helps illustrate just how much Vegas depends upon “The Flower.”

Lightning round

  • Robin Lehner: The Blackhawks have fond memories of Corey Crawford (.888 save percentage), but might want to ride the hot hand in Lehner, who has a .936 save percentage through six games. There are signs that Lehner might be able to bail out a shaky Blackhawks defense, considering a high GSAA.
  • When you consider how well Pittsburgh’s played despite injuries that are finally healing up, give Sidney Crosby a lot of credit. Don’t sleep on Jarry and Matt Murray, though, as they have put together great stats early on.
  • The Canucks renaissance is based on a hot top line, but also Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko, with Demko maybe arguing for a bigger slice of the starts with a .941 save percentage. Both have been lights out, though.
  • Connor Hellebuyck: For all the doom and gloom for Winnipeg, the Jets would be in bigger trouble without a so-far redemptive season for Hellebuyck, who has a .924 save percentage and has generally saved their bacon.
  • Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton have both been fantastic for the Sabres, ranking alongside each other at seventh and eighth in GSAA, and each have the requisite strong vanilla save percentages.
  • By John Gibson standards, a .920 save percentage is pedestrian, but again, the Ducks are asking him to work miracles. He’s pulling off magic, at minimum.
  • Last season, Thomas Greiss was almost as great as Lehner. So far in 2019-20, Greiss is … almost as great as Lehner (.931 save percentage, 4.02 GSAA).
  • To round out this post, Philipp Grubauer and Mikko Koskinen have had the occasional off start, but have mostly been strong for the Avs and Oilers respectively.

When you consider how many of these goalies are on teams that are mysteriously red-hot, maybe those torrid runs aren’t such a mystery. The bigger mystery is: how many of them can keep at least most of this up?

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Roman Josi signs eight-year extension with Predators

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It’s been a good month for Swiss hockey players and their bank accounts.

A little over a week after Nico Hischier inked a $50.75 million extension with the Devils, the Predators have signed defenseman Roman Josi to an eight-year deal worth $72.472 million. The contract, which carries a $9.059 million cap hit, kicks in beginning with the 2020-21 NHL season and features $33.75 million in signing bonuses. He’ll also be the owner of the third-highest cap hit among defenseman behind Erik Karlsson ($11.5 million) of the Sharks and the Kings’ Drew Doughty ($11 million).

“Roman Josi is one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League and our team leader as captain,” said Predators GM David Poile. “As he enters his prime, we look forward to Roman continuing to showcase his elite skills in Smashville and guiding our team in pursuit of the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup.”

Per Pierre LeBrun, here’s the year-by-year breakdown:

2020-21: $750,000 salary / $11 million signing bonus
2021-22: $750,000 salary / $10 million signing bonus
2022-23: $1 million salary / $8.75 million signing bonus
2023-24: $5 million salary / $4 million signing bonus
2024-25: $9 million salary
2025-26: $8 million salary
2026-27: $7.222 million salary
2027-28: $7 million salary

In 574 career games in Nashville Josi has 98 goals and 361 points. He’s been a regular in the positive possession department (53% Corsi rating since 2014-15).

Josi is now one of seven Predators who are signed through at least the 2023-24 NHL season, joining Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris, Viktor Arvidsson, Colton Sissons, and Ryan Ellis.

How much do the Predators value the 29-year-old Josi, who Poile dubbed “our Roger Federer” after naming him captain in Sept. 2017? His deal will include a full no-move clause for the entire length of the contract. The only other time that’s happened was when Pekka Rinne signed a seven-year extension in 2011 and the first four years of the deal featured such trade protection.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: McDavid, Draisaitl win duel with Ovechkin

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Three Stars

1. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

Barkov already had two assists through the first two periods of the Flames’ eventual 6-5 shootout win over Barkov’s Panthers, yet things didn’t really get rowdy until the third. Florida and Calgary only combined for a modest 17 shots on goal in the third, yet each team scored three goals. Barkov ended up collecting assists on four of Florida’s five goals.

The Selke-level center has been one heck of a distributor so far this season, and especially lately. He’s now at 12 points in 10 games, with all of them being assists. Barkov also has six assists in his past two games, and nine in his last five.

It was a treat to watch Barkov’s line go up against another Matthew Tkachuk‘s puck-hogging group, and Tkachuk was almost as good (two goals, plus a shootout goal) as Calgary ended up squeaking by with the win.

2. Leon Draisaitl/Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Look, it seems wrong to choose just one of the two. Thursday’s Oilers – Capitals game was hyped up, and with good reason, yet hockey is a random-enough sport that you don’t always know if the stars will align for the stars (sometimes Dallas Stars) to actually produce fireworks to justify such hype.

Well, this one did.

McDavid, Draisaitl, and Alex Ovechkin all filled up the highlight reel, as you can see in the highlights section.

Draisaitl scored two goals and one assist, with his OT game-winner being one heck of an effort. Draisaitl essentially went the distance of the ice after a missed Ovechkin shot, then gave the puck up to McDavid deep in Washington’s zone, only for McDavid to calmly send the puck back to Draisaitl for an unstoppable one-timer.

McDavid finished with a goal and two assists, and was creating plenty of havoc with his great moves. Heck, he even went 16-9 on faceoffs.

Ovechkin was strong too (two goals, very close to a hat trick on nine SOG), yet Edmonton got the OT win.

3. Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks

The 28-year-old has been a little feast-or-famine lately. In three of his last five games, Kane was held without a point. When he’s produced, he’s been explosive. Kane scored a hat trick and an assist against Carolina on Oct. 16, and was integral to San Jose’s win against Montreal on Thursday, generating two power-play goals plus an even-strength assist.

If people needed a reminder that the Sharks missed Kane during his three-game suspension beyond San Jose’s sluggish start to the 2019-20 season, consider that Kane now has nine points (six goals, three assists) in seven games.

Highlights of the Night

For a great single play, you could do worse than Artemi Panarin stealing a puck from Rasmus Dahlin before scoring a beautiful goal. That clip, and more on the Rangers beating Buffalo, can be taken in here.

The Ovechkin/Capitals vs. McDavid/Draisaitl/Oilers duel was fun enough that you should treat yourself to full highlights. If you want, McDavid and Draisaitl combining for the OT-winner is thrilling enough, and that sequence kicks in around the 8:13 or so mark. But some of Ovechkin’s and McDavid’s near-misses are almost as scintillating:

(Also, Dmitry Orlov‘s own-goal can supplement as the blooper of the night.)

An interesting moment

With a 26-save shutout, Pekka Rinne ranks as a strong honorary mention for a spot in the top three stars. He also did this:

Factoids

Scores

SJS 4 – MTL 2
NYI 4 – ARI 2
NYR 6 – BUF 2
CBJ 4 – CAR 3 (OT)
STL 5 – LAK 2
NSH 4 – MIN 0
PHI 4 – CHI 1
DAL 2 – ANA 1
CGY 6 – FLA 5 (SO)
EDM 4 – WSH 3 (OT)

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.